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Automating business processes a top priority for BCBS of Mass. CIO

Creating a more efficient organization has been a priority for the IT team at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. That focus isn't going away anytime soon, said Beth O'Rorke, CIO at the health insurance company.

For O'Rorke, one of the roads to greater operational efficiency is automating business processes -- right up until the point in the process when human input or oversight is needed. At the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, O'Rorke explained how her IT department is working with vendor partners to increase its automation efforts. She also talked about what it takes to be a top-notch CIO. 

Editor's note: The following was edited for clarity and brevity.

How important is operational efficiency to your company?

O'Rorke: Operational efficiency is core to our business. We have a lot of capabilities that we need to automate and streamline our operational processes. It's probably in our top five priorities, but it's always something that we're constantly looking at. Continuous improvement, looking at how do we automate, certainly we're using robotics now to make sure that we can push our processes forward as far as automating until you need human intervention. A lot of capabilities of end-to-end digitization of our business is coming into play. It's taking some time, but as our vendor partners and our operational units work together, we're automating a lot more.

When speaking about robotics, I'm talking about automating [business] processes through the human interaction. We can automate what they're doing, look at the different tasks that have to be done and know what we have to do in order to make the processes more efficient and bring it to where human intervention needs to make a decision. If a decision can be automated, we're doing that as well.

What trait would you say is essential to being a top-notch CIO today?

O'Rorke: I think it is to be flexible and adaptive. The business is changing so much; technology is bringing new capabilities that were never thought of before. And working with my peers to help them understand some of the technology, help me understand the business problems, and bringing those together really makes a difference. Flexing your style with the C-suite, with the board, is an important aspect of your job but then also relating to your team. Your team is everything; they bring it every day, you've got to help them along and make sure they're positioned for success.

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